Twentysomething Thoughts

The following post contains twentysomething thoughts unique to my own experience, inspired by a real-life middle-of-the-night existential crisis. 

Enjoy!

***

Does anyone still feel like they’re perpetually sixteen? Or is it just me?

Should I know how to do [insert random thing you don’t know how to do] by now? (For me, personally? I don’t know how to change a tire. Or the oil. Or fix a toilet or a toaster. Or anything.  Isn’t that what AAA is for? And management? Or am I pathetic?)

Do I look “old?” Or could I pass for a college junior/senior? I mean, I am in grad school… it’s still school, am I right?

I think I look old. I spot crow’s feet. I need moisturizer, stat!

I remember when I was in high school and my friends and I were just sittin’ around chattin’ during lunch about our futures, and I remember thinking, okay, by the time I’m 24/25 there will definitely be a guy I’ve either married or am about to marry, and I’ll have a real job, and maybe a little house and for sure a dog or two, and I’ll be thinking about kids by the time I’m thirty, for sure. 

Isn’t that hilarious?

I mean, if you do have that–good for you. Truly. That’s awesome.

I just can’t imagine that right now. For me, at least–it’s scary. So permanent.

I do have a dog. Ellie. That’s something. My goodness, I love her. Do you want to see a picture? You do? Okay, then! Here you go:

Back to this permanence thing–I think that’s what scares me most. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered I like things to change, I like to move around and mix it up. My dreams change, my address changes, my taste in clothes changes, etc.

So when it’s time to “settle down,” will I be ready for it? Could I live in one place forever and ever? Could I do the same thing every day forever?

Is anyone ever really ready for it?

Shouldn’t I be content with permanence? Shouldn’t routine be a comfort? A joy? Only some are lucky enough to have it, I guess.

Okay, this next one is serious:

Do I need a signature shade of lipstick?

The thing is, even though I’m mostly just a chapstick kind of gal, there’s a part of me that loves the idea of a signature lip shade, perfume, scarf, etc. Having a signature anything–now that’s something, isn’t it? Isn’t that the epitome of being a grown-up, a woman in charge?

Maybe I’ll look into it. The signature lip, I mean.

What if I always feel unsure of everything? Why do I always say, “I’m sorry,” or “I don’t know,” after every dang sentence? I’ve noticed I try to qualify everything that comes out of my mouth. I know what I think; why do I feel like I have to apologize for thinking it?

You know what’s sad/funny? I’m obsessed with presentability. I want every aspect of my life to be presentable. Acceptable.

It’s funny because I claim not to be.

I want to be acceptable. Normal. Me. My apartment. My clothes. My car. My bag. The stickers on my laptop.

Am I too old to have stickers on my laptop?

Is anyone ever really “too old?” I mean, whenever I say, “I feel so old,” to my mom, she just rolls her eyes and says, “Kaila. You are not old.”

And I don’t think she is either.

Don’t we all want to get super, super old? Isn’t that the goal, ultimately? So why do we worry about the whole age thing? Shouldn’t people just be people no matter the number of years they’ve lived?

So there’s no “too old,” or even a “too young,” right? Or is there?

I don’t know.

There I am, saying (typing), “I don’t know,” again. Oops.

One thing’s for sure: I am in my twenties, and I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.

Except for quesadillas. I know how to make quesadillas. And pasta. And scrambled eggs.

And that’s something.

 

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Goin’ For an MFA–Reflections from my First Year

This post also contains a sprinkling of advice–even though, you know, I still feel like a newbie at this whole grad school thing. Ha. Enjoy!

So! You’ve been accepted to pursue your MFA in creative writing. Woohoo! I’m proud of you, internet stranger!

Now, if you’re anything like me, you are scouring the internet for advice/experiences/blog posts/etc. by people like me, people actually in an MFA program doing the whole grad school thing. You’re nervous, excited, anxious, happy, free, confused, and lonely (thanks T-Swift), all at the same time!

I was in your shoes a year ago. I had no clue what I was doing, so I Googled incessantly and nightly trying to figure it all out.

That’s why I’m writing this post. I hope my reflections/ramblings can give you some insight before you start, especially if you are like me–let me tell you, I am not kidding when I say I had no flippin’ clue what an MFA entailed.

Here goes nothing! Please enjoy this list of things/feelings I experienced during my first year as an MFA candidate.

Imposter Syndrome

Every moment. Every day.

You’ll feel like you don’t belong. Like they let you in on accident. If you’re semi-fresh out of undergrad (me) and your classmates are older and more experienced, you’ll feel so naive and clueless during a workshop. Maybe you won’t know what to say, how to do the workshop thing. I didn’t. I had no experience prior to the MFA–I was a literature major, so I just analyzed the heck out of really old novels and poems and plays but never asked how/why a story worked.

So every workshop felt like a whole bunch of “What the heck am I doing here? Can I DO THIS? Can I say this? Will I sound stupid?!”

My advice to confront imposter syndrome? Just roll with it. Truly. After a full year, I still feel unsure of myself as an artist most of the time, but isn’t that with everything? As I enter my second year, I’m trying to embrace this uncertainty. And after talking with my cohort, I can almost guarantee you that almost everyone deals with this feeling. An MFA program can be an intimidating/competitive place, but just know even the best feel like imposters.

Solidarity!

Criticism–& Lots of It 

Oh, gosh. I was prepared for all the criticism, but, then again, I was in no way prepared for it all.

Ha. Haha. You and your stories will get torn to shreds at one point–even the most talented writers in our program have endured a horrible workshop. I’ve suffered a few, I admit. The worst is looking at written comments after the fact and reliving the humiliation.

Okay, okay. It’s not that bad. It just depends on your perspective.

Every bit of criticism helps you become better, helps your stories become stronger. We’re all just here to become our best (and maybe, I don’t know, get published and get tenure-track positions one day, yes?), so every little bit of constructive criticism helps.

As a class goes on, you learn to filter the comments–you almost know whose comments you can “trust,” and you cling to their advice, their margin comments.

A little piece of advice? Find friends you can commiserate with. If you have a bad workshop, it almost always helps to laugh about it afterward with a friend. Make fun of yourself. Don’t take yourself so seriously. We’re all in an MFA program to learn and get better–why stress so much when you come up short?

(P.S. I’m still trying to actively live my own advice–HA.)

Speaking of Friends

Find you some. Be social, at least a bit. Talk to people in your office, if you have an office. That’s an order.

During my first semester, I wasn’t so keen on being social. I felt too busy, too overwhelmed. Also, my dog had stomach problems and big vet bills, so that didn’t help.

My second semester, however, I did stuff. With people. Usually just dinner, and, toward the end of the semester, game nights, including a round of Dungeons and Dragons.

Side note: I had no idea how fun D&D could be. Holy cow.

Anyway.

My point: friends can help you feel not so alone in all of this. All of my friends are in the English department, creative writing or otherwise. We all share the fourth floor of the English building as TAs, we all teach sections of Comp, we all come from different walks of life and different parts of the country/world. It’s a wonderful feeling to talk to people who are going through the same things you are–you learn from your friends, you have fun with your friends.

My advice: just talk to people in your classes. Go to mixers. To pizza nights. To readings. Don’t be afraid to say “yes.” Know when you need to say “no,” but, man. Say “yes” every once in a while. It could lead to some awesome experiences.

Me Time: Take Some

Friends are essential, but so is a little thing called “me time.”

If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel like your whole life is consumed by the MFA–there is so much to do between writing, preparing to teach, teaching, office hours, obligations such as readings, meetings, etc., and writing center hours (at least if your program is like mine, with funding etc.). The MFA is a job, so it makes sense that I’m talking about a little work/life balance.

Find hobbies outside of your field. This is proving difficult for me–I love reading, I love writing, but I know I need something away from it all. Walking my dog and cooking dinner–in that order–have become my solace. I listen to music (mostly musical soundtracks because I can’t seem to break away from storytelling completely) and podcasts, and I tie up my shoes and strap in Ellie (dog) and we set off around the block. When we return home, I make something simple for dinner (all while listening to music or a Podcast still), and I either sing my heart out or laugh out loud to whatever Podcast I’m listening to (usually @GilmoreGuys, because I’m still obsessed with Gilmore Girls). This time away from the books, from students, from grading–from thinking–helps so much.

Find something outside of the MFA that you enjoy. The MFA is not your whole life–it’s what you do, not who you are.

Ha. I’m so cheesy.

Submit! Submit! Submit!

The MFA is your chance to spend 2-3 years on your craft with the guidance and help of your cohort and professors. Why not actively try to get published in the meantime?

When I say “submit,” I mean to submit to literary magazines, contests, journals, etc. I’m saying this because a year ago I definitely had no idea what this whole “submitting” process was like–I couldn’t tell you any small presses, magazines, etc. Remember: me = clueless.

Get a Submittable account–it’s free, and you can easily discover new opportunities and submit to places and keep track of your submissions all on one site! A ton of journals only operate through Submittable, so it’s almost essential. Also, if you want to invest a bit of money, get a Duotrope account–I believe it’s $50 for the entire year, and it is wonderful. You can search journals based on acceptance rates, etc. You can also search for individual magazines and check your chances of acceptance and see how long it takes on average to hear a response.

I’m guilty of checking Duotrope every day. It’s probably unhealthy, but hey.

Once you start submitting, be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. Also, be prepared for rejections galore. Don’t worry–it’s normal. Although it can hurt, every rejection feels like a step towards an acceptance.

My philosophy? Submit without abandon, often and plenty. You never know what will come of it. In my first year, I have been published once, and I’m always hoping another acceptance is around the corner.

Enjoy

And, in true Kaila fashion, let’s end this post on an extra-cheesy note!

While pursuing an MFA can be stressful, intimidating, and competitive, it’s been such a great experience so far. I’m surrounded by ambitious people just like me, by people who love to discuss their art and books and other nerdy things. I’ve tried to soak up every minute of academic bliss–sometimes I pinch myself because I realize I’m still a student, one of my favorite things to be. I get to walk around on a campus that’s buzzing with potential and dreams not yet realized. I get to teach students just starting their own journeys, see them grow as college students and as writers. I get to become the best writer I can be, and I’m surrounded by accomplished faculty who are on my side. I get to write fiction; I get to be completely immersed in worlds and characters I create. I get to attend readings by accomplished authors and ask them my questions, pick their brains.

It’s fantastic.

Enjoy your MFA experience. Don’t stress. You got this, internet stranger.

Thanks for stopping by. Now go kick some you-know-what!

For more advice/posts from fellow MFA candidates, check out the blog “The MFA Years.” It’s a wonderful; I’m pretty sure I make up half of the traffic to the site. 

“Life, Liberty, & The Pursuit of Cheese Curds”

Alternate title: “My Week of Christmas Trees, Red Barns, and Midwestern Charm.”

Hey, blog.

As you can tell by the two titles, I’ve just returned from a vacation in the Midwest. My best friend from the DCP lives in northwest Iowa and eastern South Dakota, so I was so excited to finally make the trek up north to visit her and her family!

Also, as you can tell from my “trek up north” comment, I do not reside in the Midwest, so everything I experienced was so. Much. Fun. And new! And adorable. And eccentric. All wonderful–magical, even. Charming as heck.

For reference, I like to think of myself as a Texoman–I divide time between the Lone Star State and Oklahoma. (Yeehaw, I guess?) I say “Y’all” religiously, Whataburger spicy ketchup runs through my veins, and I know my state songs forwards and backwards, partly due to overt/obnoxious pride, and partly because we were required to learn “Texas, Our Texas” in the fourth grade. I sang the song in front of the class, as did every little Texan in my school.

I digress.

Let me tell you, I love experiencing new places, especially new regions of our country. In the past, I’ve fully experienced the deep South, Florida, and Texas/the lower Midwest (what I call Oklahoma), but I had never really experienced a place like Iowa/South Dakota. As I was driving north, I noticed some differences in the physicality of the land.

First: Christmas trees. Evergreens! Everywhere! On farms! Beside the road! Just chillin’!

I couldn’t stop saying, “Look at all these Christmas trees!” I loved them so much–Allyssa’s (my friend) childhood home had so many just hanging out in the yard, so that alone could make a girl happy.

But there’s more.

Did you know red barns exist? That they’re not just on postcards? Or on Thomas Kincade prints?

Red barns, my friends, actually do existUsually in an idyllic little grove in the middle of corn fields, as did most of the farms I saw. When I got closer and closer to Allyssa’s homestead, it was late afternoon, stupidly (perfectly) sunny, and my head kept swiveling to-and-fro to catch glimpses of these perfect little barns, some stamped with a decoration that indicates they are part of a “century farm,” a farm that has been in the same family for at least one hundred years.

Can you believe that? I don’t know where I’ll be in two years, and these folks and their family have been running a farm for more than one hundred. (!!!)

Of course, I knew red barns existed before this trip, but where I’m from, most of the barns I see are abandoned and collapsing by the side of the road–I’m from Texas, yes, but not in an area dominated by farmers and/or ranchers. I’m a suburb gal, so the sight of these red barns–bright red, trimmed with white, beautiful, clean and pretty barns–made me so happy.

Let’s move on to the different attractions I experienced. I’ll give you a quick rundown:

Obscure museums, tours, a corn palace (yes, you read that right), a small-town Fourth of July parade, fireworks, a stop at a cathedral (I’m still a Catholic school girl at heart), walks around an entire town (because it’s that small), bingo, a pie auction, and quality chill time with my best friend and her family.

There was probably more–we did so much during my short visit.

Let me discuss the most quirky/charming/wonderful activities, because this trip was chock-full.

The Corn Palace. Yes. It’s what you think it is. In Mitchell, South Dakota, there’s a big building that’s covered in corn, corn husks, and other corn bits. The corn composes intricate murals that interpret the theme of the year. This year’s theme is “South Dakota Weather,” so the Corn Palace was covered in murals depicting snow, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and more. The Corn Palace is one of those iconic roadside attractions–like the world’s largest Ketchup bottle, or ball of yarn, or polyurethane cow (anyone watch The Middle?!)–and, let me tell you, I’m a sucker for that stuff. I live for all things quirky, and I love a good gift shop.

It was no surprise I went nuts for the Corn Palace. I bought a hat and three postcards. The hat is now my most treasured possession.

The Corn Palace = a-MAIZE-ing.

Ha. Haha.

Let’s talk about the pie auction. It is possible, out of everything Allyssa and I experienced, that the pie auction was my most favorite.

A little background: I was in town for Allyssa’s hometown’s Freedom Days, a weekend full of Fourth of July themed fun. There are tons of fundraisers that happen for Freedom Days, and the pie auction is one of them. The proceeds help pay for next year’s fireworks display (which was incredible, by the way; #thankyoupies).

The gist: people in town bake pies, a real auctioneer auctions them off, and the bidding starts at $50.

Yes. $50.

I CANNOT BEGIN TO EXPRESS HOW INCREDIBLE THIS EXPERIENCE WAS. Pies went for $100! $200! $300! $400! $500!

The biggest bid?

$1,025!

I KNOW, RIGHT?

Apparently, this bid holds the record as the largest in the town’s history. To be a part of this historic night was magic. I even bid on a pie (thank you to Allyssa’s dad for being the sweetest ever), and came home the winner of a S’mores concoction.

Victory tastes sweet.

Speaking of food–let’s talk about FOOD. Midwestern food.

Here are food/restaurants I savored while experiencing the Midwest to its fullest:

  • Culver’s (Hello, Cheese Curds! I LOVE CHEESE CURDS! Those things just don’t exist down here.)
  •  Pizza Ranch. Delicious.
  • Culver’s frozen custard.
  • There was more, but for some reason, I can’t remember.
  • Oh, yeah! Allyssa’s fam cooked brats (my first time trying those, and holy cow, so good), burgers with the best-tasting beef, and “barbeque,” which is our version of Sloppy Joes. All delicious.
  • And Taco John’s. I find the whole concept of Potatoe Oles wonderful/wacky–remember, I’m a Texan, and we think our Tex-Mex can do no wrong.
  • Okay, I still think that. BUT. I loved Taco John’s and its “West-Mex.” Apparently, that’s a thing.

Overall, experiencing some of the cuisines of the Midwest proved fun, tasty, and new-to-me. I loved it.

The best part of the Midwest?

The people, of course. Adorable accents and all (everyone had an accent–Midwesterners seem to skip over their vowels altogether, at least compared to us Southerners. Also, the vernacular: “Pop” instead of “soda” or “Coke,” phrases like “shoot a pickle!” [FAV], and more. Oh, I could dissect dialects ALL DAY).

The people are so nice. I felt so welcome by everyone–Allyssa’s family (I love y’all), the townspeople, our tour guides on our many excursions, etc. There’s a lyric from “Iowa Stubborn” (from the musical The Music Man) that sums up the people of the Midwest perfectly:

“But we’ll give you our shirt/ And a back to go with it/ If your crops should happen to die.”

Good, good people with the biggest hearts. What more can I say?

Thank you, Allyssa and fam, for being my hosts and my guides to all things Iowa/South Dakota. Not only was last week a week for catching up with my best friend, it was a week of new adventures and new experiences. I had the most incredible time.
Now, if you excuse me, I’ll be here craving cheese curds for the rest of the year. They are just so dang good.

Favorite Feelings

The first day of a vacation, i.e. what today is for me. (I’m coming for ya, Allyssa and Iowa and South Dakota!)

The first sip of a large Diet Coke with vanilla from Sonic, because it’s extra vanilla-y.

Reading in a pool, your body half-submerged as the sun warms your shoulders and arms.

When you flip on the Food Network and the Pioneer Woman is on. She’s fantastic.

The crunch of a tortilla chip dripping with creamy jalapeño sauce from Chuy’s. UGH. I melt.

A perfectly clean room.

When you sit down to write and your brain actually spits out ideas.

The first time you listen to an album or a song, and you end up loving it. It’s the magic of listening to lyrics for the first time, you know?

When you used to work at Disney World and you visit for the first time in over a year, and Russell from Up remembers you and walks you to the Wilderness Explorer Clubhouse. (Oh, Disney. I MISS YOU.)

Receiving snail mail from your friends. Just sayin’ hi.

Sitting between the shelves of the local library, writing. You feel so official.

Actually seeing–not FaceTiming, not texting–your best friend for the first time in months. (Tomorrow, tomorrow!)

The tickle of your dog’s tongue on your nose.

Watching baby birds evolve: from aliens to gargoyles to feathered gargoyles to real life birds.

Long drives by yourself. You sing at the top of your lungs and no one judges you when you zone out to think about life and stuff.

And on that drive, you’re able to think of new story ideas and blog posts (like this one) and you feel energized and creative and productive!

And, finally, the satisfaction that comes with writing your thoughts down. There’s nothing better.

“She’s Imperfect, But She Tries…”

Hey friends. What’s up? How’s it going? Long time, no write!

(Do I say this before every blog post? Yes. Yes I do.)

I wanted to blog a bit about my experience seeing my favorite musical as of late: Waitress. I recently (like yesterday recently, at least at the moment I’m typing this) saw the touring production, and holy moly, I was so blown away; it was everything I imagined and so much more. I’ve been listening to the original cast recording for some time now, and to see the story come to life on stage was all sorts of magic.

A little background on the musical, if you’ve never heard of it:

  • Created by Broadway’s first all-female creative team (#girlpower)
  • Music was written by Sara Bareilles
  • Based on the 2007 movie by the late Adrienne Shelly
  • The story charms the pants off of you and gives you all the #feels (at least in my experience)

Why do I love this musical so much?

Last year, before grad school, when I was living at home after the Disney College Program, working two jobs, and trying to figure out what the heck I was doing with my life (ha), I “discovered” the Waitress Tony performance on a late night YouTube binge of Hamilton vids. (Because I had just “discovered” that show, too. Ha. Haha. I’m always late to the game).

The last song of the performance, “She Used to Be Mine,” was performed by Sara Bareilles and Jessie Mueller, and it broke me in the best way. Long story short, on that night more than a year ago, that song (“She Used to Be Mine”) and Jessie Mueller’s performance reminded me of my mom, the strongest woman I know. The resolution of the musical also reminds me of my mom–she has always puts her girls (my sister and me) first, and I love her so much for it.

I spent that night bawling all by my lonesome in my childhood bedroom, and then I promptly downloaded the album. The music became the soundtrack to my day: “Opening Up” and “Everything Changes” for the morning commute, “Bad Idea” for my weekend jogs, “A Soft Place to Land” for shower singing, and “She Used to be Mine” for literally anytime, anywhere. Since starting my MFA last August, the music of Waitress has become a go-to writing soundtrack and inspiration for my own characters in my stories–I focus on women’s experiences and relationships (especially sister and mother-daughter relationships), and the music puts me in the perfect mindset to bring my characters to life.

Let me tell you, actually seeing this beautiful production was such a joy. This musical has everything–I laughed (so much), I cried, and my heart soared. (Can we talk about how cheesy that sentence was?)

I also had an incredible view: fourth row (the best I’ve ever had during a performance/concert/etc.). Also, the couple in front of me didn’t come back after intermission (why, though?!), so I COULD SEE SO WELL for Act II. I COULD SEE THE ACTORS’ FACES so CLEARLY.

This, my friends, is a very big deal to me.

If you have a chance to see this musical, do it. It’s heartwarming, heartwrenching, and an overall wonderful experience. If you love stories about real, good people just trying to do their best, you gotta see Waitress. 

Also there’s pie. Who doesn’t love pie?!

Reading/Watching/Obsessing/Doing

It’s finally SUMMER. Oh, sweet summer! I’m done with school until August, and I’ve been whole-heartedly enjoying my “break” so far.

Let me tell you–I’ve been writing. A lot. But not for this blog, as you guys could confirm. I’ve been brimming with ideas for fiction, but I’ve been coming up short when it comes to this blog.

SO. Here’s a little post about what I’ve been up to since the end of the semester: what I’m reading, watching, obsessing over, and what I’ve been doing.

Reading

Since turning in my students’ final grades, I’ve been enjoying reading what I want to read. One of the best feelings in the world is the ability to choose your reading material and read at your pace, at your leisure. Ugh, I love it so much. I’ve read so much so far, at least for my natural pace–which is pretty slow for a lover of literature.

Since I”m trying to write literary fiction and mostly short stories, my goal this summer is to “catch up” and read as much literary fiction as possible. I finally made a Goodreads account, and HOLY MOLY I’M OBSESSED! I love the idea of tracking what I read and creating a “to-read” list! All in a handy dandy app! UGH! It’s so great.

My current reads are Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (who has quickly become one of my favorite authors–holy cow) and What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a short story collection. Both are so good. I will say, I enjoyed Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds a little more than Fates and Furies so far, but MAN can she write!

So far, both books are on their way to earning a five-star rating. If you’re interested, check out my Goodreads page.  

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Watching

So a book I was required to read this past semester was The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it for my seminar in fiction class, which focused on creating stories influenced by “landscape.” It was the first book we read, and it couldn’t exemplify the course’s objectives more perfectly.

I’m currently obsessed with Hulu’s adaptation; I paid 99 cents for a three-month trial of Hulu just to watch the entire series. I’m caught up, and each week I look forward to Wednesday so I can check in on Gilead. I love how they do a weekly release–it brings back those “good old days” vibes when we had to wait a WHOLE WEEK to find out what happened next.

If you haven’t already, watch this series. Read this book. You’ll be disturbed, but man, oh man will it make you think!

Obsessing

We have barn swallows building a news on our back porch, and I am completely obsessed with them. They are the prettiest birds, and, according to my extensive Google search, some cultures believe they bring good luck to the household.

My goodness, I love them so much. Their names are Bernard and Bianca. I’ll [maybe] keep you updated.

Doing

Writing. Reading. Writing some more. Running a tad. Working on projects. Reading submissions for my university’s lit journal. Enjoying every single second of summer and its sweetness.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope you’re enjoying the warmer days, the sun, and, most importantly, your reading material. If you’re reading stuff you don’t like…STOP. Visit your library. Peruse its shelves. Fall in love with reading again.

Okay, that’s all. I’m off to watch my swallows build their nest. I love them, I love them, I LOVE them.

 

The End is Near

The end of the semester, that is.

GUYS. I’m almost done with my first year of graduate school. What the heck? This time last year I was searching for apartments online, and now I’m published (just once, but it’s a start!), have a semester teaching under my belt, and I’ve made such great friends with people in my cohort.

I also don’t feel as clueless–I felt so clueless at the beginning of all of this. I had no idea what I was doing (and I still don’t sometimes), but gosh darn it, I’m DOING this grad school thing. That’s something!

I think I have a handle on things? I think?

And while the end of the semester is certainly near, I have so much to do in such a short period of time. But it’s all good–really. Sure, I’m stressed, but who isn’t? I’m so lucky to be in graduate school, to be learning so much. And I mean SO much.

My brain has grown three sizes at least.

(And, yes, I know that’s not how the acquisition of knowledge works.)

Here’s a little list of some of the things I’ve learned during my first year of my MFA:

  1. Grad school is a lot of work and requires a TON of multitasking. My time management skills have DEFINITELY come in handy! I know this seems like a “You think, Kaila?” kind of point, but there is truly a difference in the workload between undergrad and graduate school, at least in my experience. If you happen to be thinking of pursuing your MFA in creative writing, it’s a good thing to know you will be doing lots and lots and lots and lots of work. (Which is awesome.)
  2. I know very little about fiction writing, but I’m learning so much every single day.
  3. Teaching is so much more than the time spent in the classroom. I knew this before coming in, but you really don’t know to what extent this is true until you actually teach.
  4. Teaching is great and I love it. It’s also stressful, but the great stuff outweighs the stress stuff.
  5. Cooking at home is such a stress reliever AND a money saver. Oh my goodness, I have learned the greatness that is eating more meals at home!
  6. “No homework days” should not be spent feeling guilty about not doing your homework. Savor it. Rest up. (I’m still working on this one.)
  7. Library book sales are an incredible thing and they happen once a semester. Buy all of the books!
  8. Taking your dog on long, long walks helps you destress, helps your dog release some energy, and makes for a productive evening of work.
  9. Making friends with your colleagues means that classes are fun, offices are fun, everything’s fun. 
  10. I love school. I knew that, but now I’m pretty sure I want to stay in school for as long as possible–teaching or otherwise.

As I finish up my last bit of writing and grading for the semester, I can’t help but be so grateful for this opportunity to learn and work on my craft. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of years bring.

 

 

 

Change

Well. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably noticed things have changed around here. My blog has a different name, different look. No more “Kaila’s Wonderland.”

Why did I change these things? Why change my name, the aesthetic?

I started this blog in 2014 to have space where I could write about what I loved in a non-academic way. Things I love/loved include books, pop culture, my life, Disney stuff, school. Really none of that has changed–I still [really] love Disney, books, pop culture, my life, and now graduate school. Since starting my blog, I’ve graduated college, done a Disney College Program, worked as a content writer, and worked as an editorial assistant for a city magazine. Now I’m pursuing an MFA in fiction and I’m writing fiction regularly.  I even have a story published (check out the new “Publications” page), and I’m constantly submitting work in the hopes of getting more stories published.

With all that I’ve done, I’m starting to know what I want to do with my life–or at least have an idea of what my “next step” will be. And with this knowledge, it was time for a little rebranding.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know this site used to be called “Kaila’s Wonderland,” or kailainwonderland.com. I’ll always love the part of me who began the blog, the college junior who couldn’t sleep one night so she started a blog on a whim. That name–“Kaila in Wonderland” or “Kaila’s Wonderland”–was my first and favorite idea, and I was so proud of the worlds it combined: my name, Disney, literature.

Now that different aspects of my life are in focus–writing, my career–I just know it’s time to change things up. I won’t necessarily write about different things, but I’ll write about more things in this space, particularly about my life in graduate school, my writing, etc. Perhaps there will be more musings, more ramblings. I don’t know. But I’ll  always write about things I love, which includes everything I’ve always loved.

The new name of the blog, my new “brand” if you will, truly encompasses everything I am. I’ve always lived my life like me, “By Kaila.” I’ve always written words by me, “By Kaila.” This is a space where I’ll continue to do that, and I hope you’ll continue to follow along.

Thanks for reading, friends, and thanks for sticking with me since 2014. I can’t wait to keep writing in this space, and I hope you enjoy all the words written by me, By Kaila.

Hope and New Beginnings and All That Jazz

I’ve talked about how much I love the New Year on this blog before, but this year I love it times ten. I’m so hopeful and so energized and ready to take on whatever comes my way.

Like so excited.

I think I’m ready to not feel like I’m in a “funk” this year. I’ll be honest, after returning home from my college program in August of 2016, I felt lost and out-of-sorts, unsure and hesitant. Kind of…blah. I think the transition from college to Disney World to the real world to graduate school has been daunting and rough at times. But now I’m feeling good. More balanced. Ready. Excited. Hopeful.

Some quick little goals/resolutions:

  1. Enjoy my first year of teaching–I’ll be teaching composition one as part of my graduate teaching assistantship this coming semester, and I am so excited to give it a whirl.
  2. Make my health a priority this year. Work out! Feel like an athlete again! Eat well! Be mindful! Feel great!
  3. Write and write and write and write and write and revise and revise and revise and revise and submit and submit and submit and submit to magazines and whatnot.
  4. Be happy. Stress less. Enjoy the little things.
  5. Find a hobby–maybe cooking? Something?

I hope everyone has a happy, productive, and magical 2018.

Random Things I Miss About the DCP

Did you guys know it’s almost been a full two years since I began the Disney College Program?

TWO. WHOLE. YEARS. And so much has changed.

I’ve been missing that time in my life a lot recently–like, a lot, a lot–and it’s hard to explain why I’m missing it so much. I wouldn’t trade where I am and what I’m doing for the world. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I don’t necessarily want to go back to Disney to work (although that option will never not be there).

There are just random things I miss about the experience. And I miss them so much lately that my heart aches.

Why am I so dramatic?!

I think it’s that time of year where nostalgia creeps in and you start thinking about your past and your childhood, and the Disney College Program encompassed the most complete feeling of carefree-ness I’ve ever experienced. I lived and worked at the most magical place on Earth, and I focused on having fun for six whole months. It was hard not to be happy during that time, and naturally you start to miss feeling like a kid 24/7.

In the spirit of procrastination as I work on my final projects of the semester, I wanted to make a list of random things I miss that aren’t necessarily the obvious things, for my enjoyment and for yours.

Enjoy!

  1. My friends (obviously). The people I met on my DCP are my kindred spirits, and I miss them every day. I’m thankful for group texts and Snapchats and Skype calls.
  2. The green carpet in my apartment at Chatham Square. I can’t explain why I miss this, but I do. I’m weird; it’s weird.
  3. The smell of Flame Tree Barbecue during my shifts with Dug and Russell–during lunchtime, my stomach was always growling.
  4. The smell of characters as you hug them. It’s distinct. You get it if you know.
  5. The Tree of Life in the mornings before the park opened. I’d walk to my location and think I was the luckiest girl in the world because I saw something so beautiful sans crowds.
  6. Loop music that I’ve now memorized the melodies to. I’m looking at you, Asia in DAK. Also–the loop music in Adventureland is exactly the same as the loop music on Discovery Island (specifically the Pizzafari area). That music is my jam.
  7. Taking pictures constantly and never feeling awkward. Selfies all day every day. Princess poses galore. Foot pops, silly faces, the works.
  8. Park days where the crowds are low and your enthusiasm is so high and you do so much stuff and skip around saying, “Nobody’s HEEERRREEE!!!” with your arms outstretched to demonstrate the emptiness.
  9. Looking at pins you swear you’d eventually buy–some you do, and then you realize pins are EXPENSIVE. But you still buy some more. Because why not?
  10. Smells. All smells. Even backstage smells. The drive-through at my local Panera smells just like backstage Tusker House and it’s weird and thrilling.
  11. Speaking of backstage…walking toward base at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and walking by an unfinished Pandora with its floating mountains and its mystery and wishing you could see it finished one day (mission accomplished).
  12. Wearing ears constantly. I love ears. They complete any outfit.
  13. Solo park days when you just sit somewhere and just take everything in.
  14. The Voices of Liberty. I LOVE THEM.
  15. Watching Festival of the Lion King multiple times in a single day. Because we could.
  16. Doing the Tumble Monkey’s “Circle of Life” choreography as soon as you exit the Harambe Theatre, and saying “Look guys, I can be a tumble monkey!” to your friends.
  17. Main Street. And Photopass. Stopping at every Photopass down Main Street. “WE HAVE THE PHOTOPASS!”
  18. Scoring fast passes to big-ticket attractions the same day you plan to ride them. Frozen! Soarin’! Mine Train! SUCCESS!
  19. Feeling sweaty and sunburned and freckled 99.9999% of the time.
  20. My Teva tan. I was proud of it, because I never tan.
  21. Pinning my name tag to my blueberry shirt every day and nearly sticking myself with the pin every day.
  22. Exhaustion-driven sleep–the best kind, the most “out like a light” kind.
  23. Talking to kids all day, and seeing those same kids’ faces light up when they meet their favorite character or when they see the parade or the fireworks for the first time.
  24. Festival of Fantasy and reciting the entire opening monologue thing and singing along to the lyrics: DREAMS THAT GLOW / WONDROUS, DAZZLING, BRILLIANTLY.
  25. CELEBRATE THE MAGIC! (R.I.P.) Also crying when Walt Disney said something about remembering it all started with a mouse…who could that be?
  26. Oh yeah. Mickey. Mickey Mouse. I miss seeing him.

That’s all for now, folks. I’ll see ya real soon.

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After receiving my Traditions ears… I CRY. Forever thankful for Disney and the sweetest memories.